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Unformatted text preview: Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=989126 1 Naturalism: Audacious Thoughts on the Consilience of Physics, Biology and Economics by Carsten Herrmann-Pillath Academic Director, Sino-German School of Governance Chair of Evolutionary and Institutional Economics Witten / Herdecke University Alfred-Herrhausen-Str. 50, D-58448 Witten, Germany Voice +49-926572, Fax +49-926571 Email [email protected] Paper prepared for the 2007 annual meeting of the Committee for Evolutionary Economics, Verein für Socialpolitik, Münster, July 5-7 Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=989126 2 Naturalism: Audacious Thoughts on the Consilience of Physics, Biology and Economics Abstract Edward O. Wilson has defined consilience as a strong reductionist program in science. This paper proposes an ontological approach to consilience, which allows for an emergentist interpretation. The methodological basis is naturalism, which is defined through some fundamental notions such as the unity of the world and the impossibility of the detached observer. Naturalism includes, for example, evo- lutionary epistemology. It does not imply a reductionist approach to human mind and society, but to the contrary the convergence of Naturwissenschaften und Geisteswissenschaften . A major reference point is the naturalization of the Gödel theorem, presaged by Hayek in his Sensory Order . Its implications match recent insights of the brain sciences, such as modularization and complex interaction between reason and intuition, which are being received by neuroeconomics re- search. The Gödel theorem is also related to fundamental theorems about ran- domness, such as Chaitin’s number. The world is random in the sense of being singular, which, however, we cannot perceive adequately because our knowledge is propositional, hence relies on provability in a general sense. This diagnosis matches with certain economic approaches to entrepreneurship and uncertainty, such as Shackle’s. The relation between regularity and singularity evolves during the expansion of the universe, according to the theories of Chaisson and Brooks/Wiley, and can be measured as increasing information content that emerges from the growing differential between possible entropy and realized en- tropy. The difference reflects the growing number of constraints on possible states of the world. These processes are triggered by a continuous flow of energy, in particular through dissipative systems, which minimize entropy internally and maximize externally. From this, the ontological principle of bimodality is deduced, i.e. every state of the world is matterenergy and knowledge. Knowledge is inter- preted as non-referential, i.e. as a result of a universal principle of variation, se- lection and retention, which also applies for the human mind, thus including ref- erential (propositional) knowledge as a special case. Finally, the paper sketches the consequences of ontological consilience for economics, which include the rec-...
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